Ostensibly a D&D style fantasy in which a questing party with characters of distinct classes set off on a mission, The Clockwork Boys has its own agendas. According to the afterword, the story (volume 1 in a series) first took shape several years ago when T.Kingfisher (aka Ursula Vernon aka Red Wombat) became frustrated with moody paladins in RPGs. As a consequence central to the story is a disgraced paladin, who under the influence of a demon committed mass murder and now has been given a chance of redemption.
But equally central is Slate – a forger, thief and occasional accountant with bad allergies and a magical sense of smell. Slate is a more familiar character for readers of Kingfisher – a clever woman with a wise head and a sense of magic. Slate has been charged with a suicide mission to discover the secret of the infamous ‘clockwork boys’ – mechanical centaur-like walking siege engines that have been fighting a war for a distant city.
The relationship between the two core characters and the rest of the party (an amoral assassin, a misogynistic scholar-monk, and a ‘gnole’ they pick up on the way) provides lots of scope of the interplay between characters and snappy dialogue.
Fun, lots of action and over way too soon to be fully satisfying. I eagerly look forward to the second volume.